Great news is coming in the field of scientific studies and protection of the oceans. The General Assembly of the International Hydrographic Organization – IHO (Organisation Hydrographique Internationale) will take place from the 16th until the 18th November 2020 at their headquarters in Monaco, involving about four hundred participants coming from ninety Countries that will debate remotely about some key issues that will revolutionise the tools available to international navigation in view of new challenges and shared actions. The Sovereign Prince will inaugurate the panel among IHO members, observer States, Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations by his opening speech.
That would be a pivotal opportunity to take stock of the activities carried out so far and plan future priorities. Among these the application of a new global model of hydrographic digital data, named S-100, that will enable more users to trust on a standardized frame of reference that will be applied to a greater number of marine technologies in use in the industry, energy, scientific fields and much more. The new directives formulated by IHO are intended to facilitate the integration of hydrographic data and their applications in conformity with ISO 19000 series of geographic standards, with the aim at having an increasingly detailed data analysis for geographic and nautical cartography.
A sure help also in terms of sea preservation. Measuring the physics of the seas; reinforcing marine activities and infrastructures; improving marine safety through international cooperation; mapping Planet Earth’s oceans and setting standards are basic pillars of IHO action plan. Not by chance, the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), conceived in 1903 by H.S.H. Prince Albert I of Monaco and still in use, gave the flood to a new era. Having up-dated and reliable hydrographic data, in fact, has considerable economic advantages through a more efficient system of maritime routes for commercial use or yachting. Moreover, it can boost the Blue Economy like the increased production of marine renewable energies and more sustainable fishing and aquaculture techniques, to optimize the relationship between Man and the Sea.
In view of this key event, on the 13th November 2020, HelloMonaco had the exclusive privilege to interview, at the press point in their headquarters, Mathias Jonas (M.J.), Secretary General of IHO, and Marc van der Donck (M.v-d D.), designated President of the General Assembly.
HelloMonaco: Dr. Jonas, what do you expect from the General Assembly of IHO which is going to be held in a few days in Monaco?
M. J.: The IHO General Assembly is the most important body of the Organization which meets every three years. We are looking forward to making important decisions this time, notably some formal resolutions like our budget and work programme. In particular, we would like to pursue some specific targets in the next three years: technical and related to human capacities and the way we collaborate each other under the framework of the Organization.
HelloMonaco: What priorities do you consider essential?
M.J.: First of all, we want to promote more digital services than in the past. Secondly, we would like to be more diverse in supporting human resources working for us. Last but not least, we are seeking to approach closely global sustainable policies regarding global oceans. We do believe that hydrography can make a great contribution to this common goal pursued by the United Nations (Note: Sustainable Development Goals or 2030 Agenda). So, we expect to reach the maximum consensus on these issues.
HelloMonaco: Captain van der Donck, how do you feel in chairing 2020 General Assembly?
M. v-d D.: The weekly agenda is quite challenging and also important. Due to covid-19, this year the work of the Assembly will be even more accurate since the summit will be held in remote connection covering about twenty different time zones in six continents. We will discuss on the new strategic plan that will fix our activities and scopes for the next decade. Being a technical and consulting body, the focus will be on how to work together using the new standards grounded on S-100 that will replace the old electronic navigation charge, conceived before the modern information age. Now, we need to enrich the system making it broader, more mature, digitally compatible and available to a wider range of the audience. The issue is already integral part of our roadmap and, hopefully, we will reach a joint decision in short time.
HelloMonaco: Can you tell us more about the other objectives to be pursued?
M. v-d D.: On the people side, we are looking for introducing a new programme to empower the role of women in hydrography changing male-orientating trends. We currently have only five women who are acting as hydrographic officers around the World and it is not a good representation. Furthermore, we are about to start new e-learning and innovation & technology projects, with great support by South Korea and Singapore IHO branches, that is even more precious following the consequences of the pandemic. We really need to work on that issue keeping both working group and panel sessions and remote training as well.